Board of Trustees
When Trustees leave your Board—whether they rotate off or resign—the Committee on Trustees should interview them. The information you collect can help you support future efforts to build the Board’s performance and effectiveness.
Design these exit interviews so each departing Board member has the opportunity to share his or her particular perspective on the overall Trustee experience. Over time, the information you collect will improve your committee’s efficacy.
Committee members conduct these interviews, meeting individually with each Trustee who is leaving. The goal is to provide an opportunity for a wide-ranging discussion between two individuals on the topic of what it’s like to be a Board member at your school. The interviewer will take notes, of course, so the departing Trustee’s responses can be shared with other committee members.
Each interview should be face-to-face, if possible. If circumstances don’t allow for this (e.g., the former Trustee has moved to another area), set up the interview via Skype or other system that provides sound and video. Set aside at least an hour so that the conversation is unhurried.
Although the interview should be conversational and congenial, the emphasis should be on the individual’s recollections and viewpoints on his or her Board service. When you set up the appointment, you may want to give the departing Trustee a preview of the questions you intend to ask, allowing the individual time to think about how to respond. To encourage a focused response, ask some of the following questions (and develop others tailored specifically to your school’s mission and strategic planning stance).
- When you were originally contacted about serving on the Board, was it apparent that your professional expertise, community service, or other attributes were considered a “good fit” with our goals?
- At that time, were you asked to serve in a specific organizational slot (for example, providing initial service on a particular Board committee)?
- Were our organizational expectations made clear to you? For example, were you told that attendance at full-Board and committee meetings was a minimum expectation?
- Were the financial expectations also made clear? Was it explained that Trustees must give or pledge first, before every fundraising campaign?
- Before or just after your induction, did you take part in a new-Trustee orientation session?
- In retrospect, how useful was the orientation? In what specific ways could it have been improved? What did you learn later in your service that you wish had been included in that session?
- How effective did the full-Board meetings seem to you initially?
- Did you immediately serve on a committee where you felt comfortable?
- Did committee meetings seem purposeful?
- Did the Board uphold a strategic approach throughout your tenures as a Trustee?
- Thinking back over your entire time of service, in what areas did the Board excel? In what areas were we less successful?
- What is the single most important project the Board should undertake in the next year? In the next five years?
Having gathered this impressionistic information through exit interviews, the Committee on Trustees should integrate the results with its review of the previous year’s work. There, the information gathered can be judged in the context of Board mission, school mission, and the strategic planning document.
Additional ISM Resources:
The Source for Trustees Vol. 15 No. 4 Preserve Your Board’s Strategic ‘Memory’
The Source for Trustees Vol. 12 No. 5 Keeping Former Trustees in the ‘Loop’
The Source for Trustees Vol. 10 No. 3 Characteristics of the Ideal Trustee
Additional ISM resources for members:
I&P Vol. 43 No. 5 New-Trustee Orientation
I&P Vol. 41 No. 4 Your Summer New-Trustee Orientation and Planning Session
I&P Vol. 36 No. 6 The Role of the Committee on Trustees in Board Succession Training
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